Department of Labor responds to criticism of US human rights report

The Ministry of Labor (MOL) on Wednesday responded to criticism of a US State Department human rights report regarding poor working conditions for migrant workers in Taiwan, saying the laws protect workers’ rights foreigners and that improvement efforts are underway.

The 2021 United States National Reports on Human Rights Practices indicates that migrant workers in Taiwan are generally exploited and incur debt in the recruitment process, due to excessive fees, guaranteed deposits and high airfare and accommodation costs.

“Brokerage agencies often required workers to take loans for ‘training’ and other fees from local branches of Taiwanese banks in their home countries at high interest rates, leaving them vulnerable to debt bondage,” the report said.

The ministry said existing laws prohibit local brokers from charging brokerage fees to migrant workers, while employers are responsible for certain expenses incurred during recruitment, such as registration and service fees.

Costs for worker training, document processing and travel are regulated by the workers’ home country, the ministry said.

The report said foreign fishermen in Taiwan are generally subject to mistreatment and poor working conditions, while the ministry said experts are reviewing policies to introduce improvements.

The report cites other discriminatory measures against migrant workers, such as cases during the COVID-19 pandemic where they were banned from leaving their dormitories other than for work.

Migrant workers could report breaches of the guidelines to the “1955” hotline it oversees, the ministry said.

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